Church- You Are Not in the Day of the Lord, Part 3

In our message, GOD CHOSE YOU- STAND FIRM (2 Thes. 2:10-17), we continued to look at Paul’s correction to the Thessalonian church who had started to believe the error they were in “the day of the Lord” (2 Thes. 2:2 NET; 2 Tim. 3:16-17- for additional information on this topic, please see last week’s sermon summary).

Before the “day of the Lord” (Daniel’s 70th week of years/the great tribulation period) can start, God (who knows the future) declares there must be (#1) “a falling away… first” (i.e. a worldwide apostasy from the things of God); (#2) the taking away of “He who now restrains” (the Holy Spirit restraining evil in the world through the Church whom He indwells) at the rapture, and (#3) the unveiling of the Antichrist, “the lawless one” (2 Thes. 2:3-8a). Since these events had not happened in their day (and still have not yet happened in ours), that time has not yet come upon the world- but it is coming… (Acts 1:6-7; Matt. 24:15-21, etc.).

As we finished our discussion here in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 on this future time of judgment when the Lord turns His eyes back on Israel, we asked the question, ‘What does this mean for the United States?’ Pastor Erwin Lutzer in his 2012 book, The King Is Coming, explains, “There is nothing we can do to halt the fact of the eventual demise of the United States… in the end times, the United States will have no influence when the final chapters of world history are written… Chicago, Los Angeles, New York… along with [all other cities] in the world will eventually be destroyed (“the cities of the world collapsed” Rev. 16:19). We find that eventually in the fury of God’s wrath, the cities of the nation will collapse… When the Scriptures predict that Antichrist will rule the world, that obviously would include his rule over America… All nations, at the pain of death, will have surrendered their independence to the one-world government and one-world religion. The United States will also have submitted itself to this global regime headed by Antichrist.”

When Jeremiah the prophet spoke of the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah in his day, declaring God’s Word verbatim as a prophet of the Lord, the message was not very popular. In fact, the kings of those days threw him in the dungeon and the mire (Jer. 38:6, etc.). And so this message also from God’s Word to us about our nation’s future is saddening, but the Bible shows us it will come to pass at some point because in that future time Antichrist will have dominance over the entire world to include the global economic system (Rev. 13:17-18, etc.).

What could cause our nation to give up its sovereignty to a global authority? Moral decay, the rapture of the church (if it occurs before this event), oil dependency, a terrorist attack, or the imploding of our currency are a few possibilities. Lutzer writes, “Regardless of what triggers it, there will be a financial collapse…” Dr. David Jeremiah in his 2021 book Where Do We Go from Here? How Tomorrow’s Prophecies Foreshadow Today’s Problems, explains, “Many see digital currencies as the wave of the future. They imagine a world where physical currency has been entirely removed and all transactions processed digitally. Many voices are even declaring the need for a new Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which would be a government-backed cryptocurrency to be the legal tender of a nation- or perhaps the entire world… Money will play an essential role in future events, including the end times… Rev. 13:17 ‘no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast [that is the Antichrist], or the number of his name.’… Human-based globalism is not the answer to our world. It will lead only to the final one-world government of the Antichrist. I don’t know how far we are from those tumultuous days. In my opinion, we’re only one existential crisis away” (Heb. 13:5; Phil. 4:12-13, etc.).

We also looked briefly at the future prophesy in Ezekiel where God says He will restore Israel to being a nation again (Ezekiel 37:1-11) which happened in 1948 after World War II, and the future war He predicts against Israel from a multi-nation force led by Russia to include Iran, Sudan, Libia, Turkey, and nations surrounding Turkey in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 (the U.S. is conspicuously absent from this account). In that battle which Erwin Lutzer and many of my professors from my seminary think occurs during the seven-year “day of the Lord” (but it could predate it), we see God steps in then and defends Israel miraculously as He did in days of old. The Bible says the Lord will at that time destroy the military might of those nations completely (Ezek. 38:21-23, etc.). This, of course, has not happened yet and is future.

Going back to our text today in 2 Thessalonians on the day of the Lord we see, after Antichrist is revealed, the vast majority of the planet will believe in him and, in that way, perish with him in the lake of fire forever (2 Thes. 2:9-12). While it is true thousands will still be saved through the 144,000 Jewish witnesses of the gospel, two miraculous prophetic witnesses of the gospel, and even an angel from heaven declaring the gospel to the world at that time, it will be a very small portion of the billions and billions of people who will perish being under a powerful delusion as they refuse to “receive the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thes. 2:10-11; Rev. 6:1-18:24, etc.). The “strong delusion” we are shown is from God, and seems to be a special judgment from the Lord that will occur at this time in history over the planet (2 Thes. 2:11). Just like God did with Pharoah in the book of Exodus who hardened his heart against the Almighty, the Lord apparently will do with these people letting them go their way (2 Thes. 2:11 NET). While people in that time will believe many false things as they refuse the truth, “the lie” (singular) that they will hold to from the Devil (2 Thes. 2:9) is pride- the belief they call the shots and they are ‘God’ (2 Thes. 2:11). This is what Satan succumbed to and also tempted humanity with in the garden: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!… For you have said in your heart… I will be like the Most High.” (Isa. 14:12-14); “You shall be like God!” (Gen. 3:5). We see this process also described in Romans 1:18ff as people “exchange… the truth of God for THE LIE, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25, caps my emphasis). Sadly, people who worship themselves and seek to be lawless against God in that time will gladly follow “the man of lawlessness” who lets them continue in their sins (2 Thes. 2:8-11). Tragically, people who do “not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” will “be condemned,” that is damned (2 Thes. 2:12 KJV). While it is true people who love “darkness rather than light” refusing to trust in Jesus will perish in any era (Rom. 1:32; John 3:18-21, 14:6; Acts 4:12, etc.), the Bible says the “great tribulation” period will also be unique in that anyone who takes the mark of the beast in those days will be lost (2 Thes. 1:8-9; 2:11-12; Rev. 14:9-11; Matt. 25:41; Matt. 24:21-22, etc.). Though God desires that all come to the truth (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4), those who refuse to do so loving and practicing lies will be “punished with everlasting destruction” in “the lake of fire” (Rev. 16: 9, 11, 21; 20:11-15; 22:15, etc.).

But God is thankful for each of His children whom He “from the beginning CHOSE [for] salvation” (2 Thes. 2:13, caps my emphasis). “Chose” means “to take or pick” and is similar to Ephesians 1:4 that we studied earlier. We see this idea again in verse 14 where it says God “called” us by the Gospel (2 Thes. 2:14). The Father choosing the church and predestinating us “to adoption… to Himself” before anything existed is stunning! (Eph. 1:4-5). Election, in the Bible, is used to encourage those who are Christ’s (John 15:16; Rom. 3:10-11; Luke 19:10, etc.). That is, there is nothing we can do to lose our salvation as we are saved by grace (Rom. 8:31-39; Eph. 2:8-9, etc.). But at the same time, the doctrine of election, while true, should NOT be taught at the expense of free will which God has also given those made in His image (Gen. 4:7; Eph. 1:13; John 3:16, 18, 37; Acts 16:31; Rev. 22:17, etc.). As one of my sources correctly noted, “It is dangerous to engage in idle speculation about divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Both are taught in the Bible.” And we see this balance here also in verse 13 as well which says, the chosen (we) were saved because of their (our) “belief in the truth” (2 Thes. 2:13; Acts 16:31; John 1:12-13; 3:7, etc.).

“Sanctification by the Spirit” here (2 Thes. 2:13) refers to the work of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction on the sinner (John 16:7-11). That is, the Spirit draws all AND all who come to God by grace through faith are brought there as a result of the Spirit’s leading when they respond to Him (John 3:16, 12:32, etc.). We also see the role of missionaries here in this text because the Thessalonian believers would not have been “called” (verse 14) unless God had sovereignly brought Paul and his team there so they could hear the Gospel (2 Thes. 2:14; see Acts 16:6-10; Rom. 10:14-15, etc.). While God loves the whole world (John 1:29; 3:16; Rev. 22:17, etc.), the whole world is not saved because a person has to believe the gospel to become His child (John 1:12-13; 14:6, etc.). And so it was with the city of Thessalonica: the whole city had the message preached to them, but only those who accepted Christ’s free gift of eternal life were forgiven (Acts 17:1-9; Rom. 6:23, etc.).

God then urges the believers to “STAND FAST and hold [to] the traditions which [they] were taught” (2 Thes. 2:15, caps my emphasis). Traditions here refers to the Word of God- the Bible. In that time when Paul penned the book of 2 Thessalonians, there may have been only two other books in the New Testament written down (i.e. Galatians and 1 Thessalonians). So, when Paul says “epistle” or letter here, he is referring primarily to the book of 1 Thessalonians that he had written the church earlier and when he says “word,” he is saying hold to the things that he and other apostles spoke to them by the Spirit- the Gospel- hold tightly to that (2 Thes. 2:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17, etc.). We also MUST pass these words of life onto future generations, so they can STAND and hold strongly against the darkness- shining for the Lord (2 Thes. 2:3, 15; 2 Pet. 1:19-21, etc.). This is a tradition we must not forsake… as God’s love and “grace” (from the Father, Son and Spirit) is the foundation for our “everlasting consolation and good hope” (2 Thes. 2:13-16, etc.). It is in the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, that we are established for “every good word and work” and able to occupy until Jesus comes for us (2 Thes. 2:1-17; Luke 19:13; 1 Thes. 5:10-11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17, etc.).